As I mentioned the other day, I am doing an editing course right here on WordPress called “Writing: Shaping Your Story.” I have re-worked one of my most recent stories looking for an angle to develop a unique voice in telling stories of ordinary life. Enjoy.
Love who you are and what you are and what you do. Laugh at yourself and at life and nothing can touch you. Louise Hay from AZ quotes
The other morning I had one of those incidents where I had to laugh at myself or in spite of myself. I find I do it quite often these days; I believe it’s one of the perks brought on by aging and the wisdom of our years. I do think if you can’t laugh at yourself, maybe it’s time for soul-searching. No one is perfect, and if we can forgive ourselves for that, if we can be OK with our shortcomings, we become more tolerant of others.
I started my day, unlike other mornings. I had my mind set to do a little weeding in the yard. I’m house sitting while taking care of my daughter’s eighty-five-pound furbaby. She and her husband have their hands full with careers and a toddler size human baby, so I decided to make use of idle time and clean up the yard a bit before they got home. Nothing major, I’m not a gardener. I had a flower garden once which was mostly landscaped already when I bought the house. With minimal fuss, that garden managed to come back and thrive every year from spring through fall. These days I’m working on trying to get a potted orchid to flower again or at least to give me hope by staying alive.
I was up and dressed bright and early with my improvised gardening outfit. Yes, I needed a gardening outfit, like I use to have one for walking the dog or play clothes after school. I wore comfortable workout shorts, t-shirt, old sneakers-without socks and a safari hat. Perhaps I should have taken a selfie, but you can probably visualize the image. We live near the southernmost part of Florida and I wanted to get weeds out before the temperature became unbearable but I couldn’t find my daughter’s gardening gloves. I have allergies and an intense dislike for creepy crawly things, so I wasn’t going out there without gloves. What a dilemma! I was going to have to run to the store to pick up a pair of gardening gloves, but I was dressed for tropical weather gardening, not shopping. To quote the grown-up Christopher Robin, “What to do, what to do.”
Some may say my quandary was “just a girl thing” but to understand my problem; we’d have to go back to my family of origin where the mantra was “We may be poor, but we are proud!” Mom always made sure we were with hair combed, clean hands and nails, our clothes ironed with starch and our shoes polished. When we went to church on Sunday, she had to make sure that we looked ready to visit The King of Kings. She learned from her mother to check us out before we walked out of the door to make sure we were “presentable.”
My grandmother was an adorable, plump little woman. Over the years I’ve mentioned that someday I wanted to be a loveable, little old lady like her. (I’m practically there – wink). She wore her thinning white hair in a small bun at the nape of her neck. Her back slightly curved from years as a seamstress. In her late 70s, her alabaster skin was without blemish and smooth, and her eyes were a light turquoise green like the tranquil waters of the Caribbean Basin in the early morning. It had been just recently that my aunt had convinced her that she didn’t need to iron my grandfather’s boxers or her bed sheets because of the new permanent press fabrics. She still starched and pressed her house dresses and my grandfather’s white cotton shirts and khakis.
One summer when I was visiting, my grandmother asked me if I wanted to go to town for some shopping. She was walking to town and wanted some company. We were already in town, but she meant about a 20-minute walk to the stores on the main street, more if she saw friends along the way. I dressed quickly and waited for my grandmother on the porch. This was in the era before cell phones so to entertain myself in the meantime; I checked out the boy next door who was about my age and helping his dad bring things in from the truck. When I saw him, was glad to be feeling cute that day. Little did I know that years later, he would become my husband.
My grandmother, Mrs. Plumeria Martin-Ponte put one foot out on the porch, looked at me and stopped in her tracks. She looked up and down at me, and I noticed the tranquil waters in her eyes were starting to churn like angry waves before a storm. “Go in and change. I’m not taking you with me like that.” Period and end of the story were implied in her tone. Of course, I was young and feeling cute, so I needed to ask why: “What’s wrong with what I’m wearing?” At the time, I thought it was cool for a girl from the big city to wear overalls with a T-shirt and sneakers. My question triggered a lecture on the proper attire of lovely young ladies going into town. She didn’t want to hear what I did back home, so I went in and changed to a sundress, ladylike sandals and wore my long dark hair in a side braid.
Fast forward to 2018, and I’m standing at the doorway with my car keys in hand, ready to go to the Town Center in workout shorts, a sleeveless t-shirt, sneakers without socks and my wild hair particularly unruly this morning. I was just going to run in and out but what if I saw someone I knew? Well, I don’t know many people in this town, I thought as I encouraged myself. Besides Hollywood A-listers do it all the time, I just won’t take off my sunglasses! That’s when it happened; I laughed at myself for giving so much thought to explain my options as if to my grandmother.
As it turned out, once I was at the Town Center, I remembered a couple of other things I needed and made another stop. I was not just in and out at either store. I chatted with the clerks and a woman behind me in line. No one asked me why I was wearing comfortable workout shorts and sneakers without socks to the trendy Town Center.
At another point in my life, I probably wouldn’t have gone out, or if I had to, I would have changed to something more “presentable.” I realize though that if anyone passes judgment about me because of the clothes I wear, then they don’t value me for the person I am. I am beyond the point where I feel the need to prove my worth. I am what I am, and it is what it is.
“Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a battle you know nothing about.” Wendy Mass, The Candymakers from Goodreads.
Since it’s my nature to ponder, I reflected on how time and again we judge others by their appearance. I often say that it seems like the experiences from our school years play out throughout our lives. We see the same behaviors at work or in social groups. Only the names and faces change. Naturally, whenever this topic crosses my mind, I am reminded of a young girl, a classmate from my middle and high school years, he name was Grace Fore.
I was an average kid. I managed to stay under the radar and out of trouble. I wasn’t especially popular but had friends from different groups that I had met through various activities like art electives, tutoring, orchestra, boosters, yearbook, and church.
Grace Fore was a loner. She was a good looking girl with her blonde hair and big, blue eyes, but something always looked “off” and not quite right. I didn’t know anything about her home life, but I knew she played the viola beautifully with sentimentality that it moved me. I remember that it was often apparent that she was trying to “fix” her appearance. The kids in school teased her when she tried a new hairstyle and her hair still looked disheveled or when she wore a misshapen dress that she made herself in sewing class. They called her Grace Forlorn. I never actually defended her, I usually just moved my friends along before the taunting got worse. I always wished I had been braver. Can’t help but wonder what it would be like in today’s social media era.
As the world turns, a few years ago, I received a Facebook friend request from Grace Fore with a simple question “Do you remember me?” “Of course,” I answered, “you played the viola beautifully. Do you still play?” She wrote to me about the difficult life she had growing up and how it turned out not much better as an adult. No, she didn’t continue playing, but she wished she had. And then she broke my heart when she said: “but you were always nice to me, and it meant so much.” I never really went out of my way to be nice to her, but I was taught to be kind and not do harm.
If she hadn’t reached out, I would have never known that one small kindness would mean so much after all these years and all she had been through. She unfriended me shortly after over differences in political ideology, but I’m glad we connected. It validated my core beliefs that I continue to develop through my life.
After driving back to my daughter’s house in this meditative state, I decided I needed a drink before I tackled the yard. It was the middle of the day in Florida with temperatures in the triple digits. I poured a tall glass of iced tea, put my feet up and stared out into the yard.
I remembered that in another life during the summer, I would frequently get small bouquets of yellow dandelions from my daughters. They would run into the house filled with love and anticipation. Despite my allergies, I would marvel with oohs and aahs as if they were a dozen long stem roses from a long lost lover and put them in small cups of water till they shriveled up. Sometimes they would bring them one by one, white and puffy so that we could make wishes together. As they blew around the backyard like snowflakes, I wondered how many more weeds I would have to deal with next time.
“Weeds are flowers, too, once you get to know them.” Quote from Pinterest attributed to Eeyore.
What a perfect quote from Eeyore. Isn’t it the truth? Yes, dandelions are weeds, but they are bright yellow flowers and conduits for wishes. In the real world, we have found that they also have healing properties and are an excellent source of vitamins and minerals.
What great lessons we learn every day, I pondered as I continued sipping my cold drink. I shook my head in amazement and snickered to myself as I closed my eyes and decided I would start fresh tomorrow.
#Shaping your story – Week One